Students are beginning their academic years and fresh graduates are starting their new jobs and career paths.
Personality is seasonal and with Autumn fast approaching, you’ll be able to tune into your inner hermit and really maximise the quality of your work, in whatever you do.
To make sure you can tap into your full potential, here are some quick tips on how to increase your productivity – using scientific evidence or otherwise.
Let’s get right down to it.
Change your location often
Changing location of your work or study every now and then not only keeps the mind stimulated, but it keeps things fresh and prevents burnout effects.
As Cal Newport says:
“Disengagement helps refresh your mind & facilitates the process of finding new angles & insights when you begin your work again.”
Anchor mental and mood states to places
Also, you anchor mental and emotional states to the environments you work in.
Use this to your advantage.
For example, if you go a specific café, set your mind to maximum productivity.
So whenever you go to that café, the place itself will arouse feelings of productivity and the mental and emotional states associated with productivity.
You just have to make that initial link and over time, the association will form.
Your brain is at its most productive between waking and dinner
Upon waking up, your mind is the freshest it can be – technically.
And before eating.
If you eat a big meal, you might get sluggish, you might get sleepy, your motivation may wane etc.
For instance, popular blogger James Clear wakes up, has a big glass of water and works until he gets hungry, usually many hours later. He claims this is when he is at his most productive.
What’s also important to know is that you can only sustain maximum productivity during a 4-hour period, according to author of the Procrastination Equation, Dr. Piers Steel.
Here’s Piers quoted at length to fully illustrate the point:
“You want to tackle it when you have the most zip, and when that is depends upon your circadian rhythm. Some of us are morning larks, relentlessly chipper and active early in the morning, filling gyms in the pre-dawn hours.
Others are night owls, slow starters whose energy levels peak later in the day (…). Whatever your rhythm, schedule that report writing to start a few hours after you wake up; it’s when your mind operates at maximum efficiency, a periods that last about four hours.
If you woke at seven in the morning, for instance, your peak performance likely occurs between ten and two, not really that wide a window. But if you clear your desk, turn off your e-mail and shut your door for those hours, you can get an amazing amount of work done.
You can extend this efficiency phase with a brief nap, twenty minutes or so, but if you’re in an office environment, that’s usually not possible. Still, a quick walk around the block can also refresh you around lunchtime.”
Willpower and creativity
But it’s not just about your mind being fresh in the morning upon waking up, but that’s when your motivational resources are highest as well.
Your willpower is replenished (it is like a muscle, after all).
According to world-famous cartoonist and creator of the comic “Dilbert”, Scott Adams also believes that upon waking up – creativity is at its peak, too.
Fill small patches of free time with productive work if you have a fractured schedule
A fractured schedule can seem like your productivity’s worst enemy, but it doesn’t have to be.
If you find yourself with a 2-hour window in between commitments or meeting, for example, just schedule a “meeting with yourself” where you can enjoy complete and uniterrupted focus (i.e. a focus block).
Take regular breaks
Regular breaks help maximise your energy and, if you’re a student, helps with retention of material.
Mike Cernovich, for example, works in 45-minute bursts sandwiched with regular 10-15 minute breaks.
In his book How to Win at College (which I highly recommend in my review of the book), Cal Newport compiles advice of straight-A students and finds that the most successful students worked for 50 minutes at a time and took 10-15 minute regular breaks.
However, you have to find out what works for you through trial and error. How long can you work at maximum capacity? How long do you need your breaks to be?
It all depends on how you feel. There’s is no magic formula.
For instance, world-renowned copywriter Eugene Schwarz had a regime where he worked for 33 minutes and 33 seconds and would take short breaks.
However long you can work, the common pattern here is that regular breaks are vital.
Do work in isolation
Remember what I said earlier about anchoring mood and mental states to environments?
Well, if you do that with a particular place, whether it be your favourite café or a particular place in the library, working in isolation is the best thing you could do for your productivity.
InHow to Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, & Sharpen Your Creative Mind, Leo Babauta calls these solitude blocks:
“For many people, the best time for solitude is early in the morning. The kids are still sleeping and everything is quiet. I get my best work done then, and the great thing it that nothing comes up that early to disrupt your schedule.”
But there is also a lot of psychology involved in how you actually approach a solitude block. You gear yourself up mentally, motivate yourself, and make an event out of your productivity.
Do no underestimate psychology in becoming an effective student. Every one follows some variant of this isolation strategy. It also increases the importance of the work you are about to tackle.
P.S. Thanks for reading. If you liked this, feel free to sign up to my free weekly newsletter for more psychological insights into everyday life.